Over the past decade, global efforts to tackle some of the world’s biggest development challenges have taken a different turn. Whether seeking to reduce the number of women dying in childbirth, getting clean water to rural communities, or increasing girls’ access to education, increasing numbers of development initiatives are looking towards innovation and technology for solutions that more traditional methods of delivering development have often failed to provide.

Funders such as the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have been at the centre of this shift, introducing a raft of innovation challenges, accelerators, and funds over the years to encourage new responses to old problems. More recently, both the development and private sectors have begun to recognise the value of working together to create services or products that combine social purpose and commercial potential. Project description CSSC preloaded quality teaching resources such as animation, video and interactive exercises onto tablet computers for 50 secondary schools, and worked with the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE), which sits within the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), to ensure resources were in line with the Tanzanian curriculum. Schools were selected on the basis of having good infrastructure, with both managers and teachers willing to cooperate and assist with installation and implementation. Teachers were given technical instruction and trained in learnercentred teaching. Students used the interactive content to help review lessons, carry out their homework assignments, and take quizzes to test their knowledge at their own pace. The platform also enabled the teachers to assign, view and mark their students’ assignments online.


Innovation can be defined simply as a ‘new idea, device, or method’ and can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements or existing market needs; this could be through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models that are made available to markets, governments, and society.  The International Development Innovation Alliance (IDIA) defines innovation for development as ‘a new solution with  the transformative ability to accelerate impact. Innovation can be fuelled by science and technology, can entail improved ways of working with new and diverse partners, or can involve new social and business models or policy, creative financing mechanisms, or path-breaking improvements in delivering essential services and products.’

HDIF’s work in understanding the Tanzanian innovation ecosystem

Determining the types of intervention needed to support social innovation requires us to unpack and scrutinise every aspect of the innovation ecosystem itself – from the actors and the roles they play to the processes and infrastructures holding it together. During the past six years, HDIF has been convening players that are involved in the innovation process including the government, funders, the private sector and the innovators themselves – to create the network and systems needed to take innovations beyond the prototype phase and realise deep and lasting impact. HDIF has been catalysing new approaches to delivering basic services and the uptake of new technologies; involving new providers; and establishing new partnerships between the private sector, development agencies, and public–private partnerships. It has also connected and supported the innovation hubs, which play a crucial role in assisting innovators in prototyping, commercialising, and anchoring their solutions. And HDIF continues to work in partnership with Tanzania’s Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), a network of hubs, donor-funded programmes, and other stakeholders, to support a culture of innovation and the country’s burgeoning innovation ecosystem. Over time, HDIF has supported a range of innovations with divergent needs and routes to scale.

Where is support needed?

While we know that innovation in Tanzania is being championed by funders, can we be confident that it is being funded adequately, at the right times and in the right places, and with the right support? How can we be sure that their investments are really helping to make the innovation ecosystem more connected, and the innovations themselves more demand-based and more sustainable? How can we attract and leverage the different types of financing that are needed at different stages of an innovation’s progression to scale?

Voices from

Innovation is thriving in Tanzania, yet its fledgling nature means that it is still heavily shaped by those who have the opportunity to support it, rather than those who are driving it from the ground up. Ensuring that donors’ decisions are grounded in evidence is therefore critical; however, much of the knowledge about the innovation ecosystem and how to support innovation is tacit. In October 2019, we interviewed a number of donor programmes (either currently active or recently so) and ecosystem actors selected by HDIF in a bid to extract and learn from this knowledge. Besides looking at their different modalities and target groups, the questions for programmes concentrated less on actual outcomes of the programmes and more on their learning: what did and did not work, what changes were made, and what their recommendations would be for others attempting to design something similar. We also sought insights from entrepreneurs and social innovators and spoke to people at a number of hubs that have either received support from, or otherwise worked with several different programmes. We asked them similar questions: What worked for what purpose? What could benefit from improvement? And what might be missing from the ecosystem in terms of support? In addition to these interviews, HDIF organised a workshop titled ‘Finance for Innovation’ in August 2019, during which angel investors, development partners, impact investors, financial advisors, and banks discussed the potential for collaboration, gaps in the market, and the
current status and future views of financing innovation according to the different stages of innovation. This chapter looks at the inputs from all these engagements. The inputs have converged around
certain themes: programme models and management, financing innovation, capacity building, and strengthening the innovation ecosystem.

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